While the rest of the world is talking about some guy in yellow shorts bringing Oprah back from the dead, I have been focused on another celebrity quest for forgiveness. Old-timey villain moustache afficianado–and some times fashion designer (and other times anti-Semite)–John Galliano is back at work.
Well, sort of.
Fashion legend Oscar de la Renta has invited Galliano to spend time working at de la Renta’s studio over the next few weeks. And in high fashion, this is not akin to being invited to sleepover. This is like being invited to sleep over ON A SCHOOL NIGHT. This is high stakes and real. And it may mean that Galliano could soon be reemployed.
High fashion is notoriously forgiving (except of those who deign to ascend out of sample-size range or to overuse Victorian ruffles). Coco Chanel? An epic liar and possible Nazi sympathizer (at best, a Nazi what’s-the-big-deal-er). Karl Lagerfeld? A fat-shamer that even a fat-shaming industry finds distasteful. Tommy Hilfiger? Okay, I don’t want to insult the guy…he has a tendency to get punch-y. But then we expect our fashion designers to have outsider tendencies, even distasteful ideas. Their job–especially as peers and admirers see it–is to create walking art and be tastemakers.
But Galliano, who was captured on video in 2011 in the throes of a drunken, racist rant at a Paris cafe, has not been so forgiven. In addition to mortifying his peers and the public, Galliano actually violated French law in his liberal use of hate speech. Add that to reports of other anti-Semitic remarks and incidents and you get (well, Galliano got) a conviction. His notorious “I love Hitler” rant spelled “We hate Galliano.”
The house of Dior fired him almost immediately.
And no one really made a big fuss over the harshness of his treatment, save the occasional wackadoo (Patricia Fields, do you read me?). To put it simply, it was terrible, toxic, harmful behavior and the guy’s always seemed like kind of a douche lord. So to be welcomed back-ish to fashion by one of the last great old timey fashion denizens is, as they say in France, le bigge effing deale.
I’m conflicted, MamaPop Nation. Galliano is a recovering alcoholic, and addicts do sick, toxic things sometimes. And I know people change, that to forgive is divine. And that the whole country is already embroiled in a debate over whether or not we forgive Lance (and Manti and Tiger). But hate speech is different. Hate speech when you’re drunk might be even worse: if it’s what you say when your defenses are down, than it may reflect dark and dangerous things lurking in your heart. You should be free to say those hurtful things, but you should also be free to stay unemployed with your angry chatter and your eensy moustache.
So, for me, the jury is out on John Galliano and on Oscar de la Renta for forgiving so “soon.” Here’s hoping his deplorable behavior was all show and that his recovery isn’t.